Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Get Your Boots On
original drafts 1997-2005

"You know, you can hardly get me to go to a party.  I like to visit with you, I visit better I think with one person or two than with a whole crowd.  It’s terrible sometimes when you have to listen, and it isn’t a bit interesting to you." (Mimmie, 10 April 1981)

Mimmie preferred to stay at her home, even on holidays.  She did join us at our house a few times for Christmas or Easter dinner, but more often she cooked for herself and Uncle Bud.  Before Grandpa died, sometimes we had holiday dinners with them at the old place.

One holiday especially stands out in my memory.  Though it was early in the winter for such a big storm, we awakened on Thanksgiving morning to a thick blanket of snow.  Supper was to be cooked at home, but transported to and eaten at Mimmie’s and Grandpa’s house. Daddy was in Florida visiting relatives, the highway crews were in no hurry to clear the roads on a holiday, and it didn’t seem likely that our car would make it there. Undaunted, Ma cooked anyway.

On Monday, when I got to school, my friends had lively stories of Thanksgiving disappointment.  Those who were traveling had hotdogs instead of turkey, because they had to stay home and had no provisions.  The families who were hosting holiday meals wound up with plenty of food, but no guests to share it.  Then it was my turn to tell our Thanksgiving story. We had supper at my grandparents’ house, exactly as planned, I said.  "Get your boots on," Ma told us when she was done cooking. We loaded the dishes of food into a sled and took turns pulling it as we walked the three miles through the snow to Mimmie’s and Grandpa’s.

In 1994, when I worked for System, I was directing a new assessment program that had a serious deadline. We had to ship exams to participating high schools, and they were to be administered during January Regents Week. A lot of the folks I worked with were brilliant people, but they were steeped in dreaming about theory. I was even teased a few times about my applied science master's degree, and described as overly "task oriented." The clock was ticking on getting the exams out - it took forever to agree on test items, pilot the tests, and finally get them and all the associated materials printed up. It was a roll up your sleeves last minute project but it looked as if we were going to make it. Then a major snowstorm hit, and there was no way to ship the boxes. Even Fed Ex would not come and pick them up; they had to be delivered to the office, across the street and up the sidewalk.

Suffice to say, those tests would have languished in the mailroom if the job had been left up to "my betters" or even to my subordinates. A naive, young but marvelous graduate assistant who worked for me blinked, "what are we going to do?" I thought for a minute. "Get your boots on." We loaded hand trucks with stacks of boxes and dragged them through the ice and snow to 41 State. Task-oriented is a bad thing my a--!

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